They say that Disney World is the happiest place on earth and most of the time I agree whole-heartedly. Then there are the times when I am surrounded by exhausted children who are hot and hungry and won’t stop whining. Then, it’s less than magical. Planning for these moments is as vital to your Disney vacation as choosing your fast-passes. Too often I meet people who headed off to Disney with stars in their eyes and unrealistic expectations. It doesn’t matter how amazing a place is, the kids will still be kids and it’s inevitable that everyone will lose their patience at some point.

The ride was stuck…a great opportunity to get a closer look at the Disney magic.

Here are my recommendations for keeping your cool as a parent at Disney World.

  1. Prioritize. Sit down with your family and choose 1 or 2 “must do” attractions for each of you. Trying to do everything is one of the surest ways to test the patience and endurance of your family members.
  2. Research. Learn the height restrictions for the rides and measure your children so there are no surprises when you get to the parks. Remember that height restrictions are put in place for your child’s safety, so don’t try to cheat the system with shoe lifts.
  3. Plan. Make dining reservations, choose fastpasses and schedule your days, then make sure your family knows what the plan is. When you use the Disney app you can share your plan and fastpasses with everyone in your group.
  4. Be prepared. Pack a small first aid kit, sunscreen, water bottles and snacks for the day. You can use a cooler backpack to ensure your snacks stay cool through the day. A bottle of water in the parks costs about $5 but there are fountains everywhere, so the water bottles are essential.
  5. Set a budget. Let your children know how much they have to spend on souvenirs and stick to the budget. Your magic bands can be used to pay for items in the parks and you can set limits on each of them.
  6. Take a break. Schedule a time in the middle of the day to return to your resort and take a nap or go for a swim. The Disney resorts can be a vacation in themselves and a midday break will let you enjoy the magic at a slower pace.
  7. Use a stroller. You can rent a stroller from private companies in Orlando or right at the Disney parks. You may not use one for your 6 year old normally, but at Disney World it can be a life saver. Not only does it give your child a chance to rest his or her tired legs, it’s also great for carrying backpacks, water bottles and extra clothes. There is designated stroller parking throughout Disney and you need to use it or your stroller will be moved.
  8. Sleep. You can expect your children to stay up late, get up early, skip their naps and still be pleasant all day long. Let them get the sleep they need (and you need too!) to walk through the parks all day. I hear there is a fantastic rope drop ceremony in the mornings at the Magic Kingdom, but we have yet to make it there because we love the fireworks and evening light shows.
  9. Go with the flow. When it rains, find an indoor attraction to enjoy or visit the shops. Do the kids want to stay at the resort all day? Go with it! The pools are fun. Don’t force the kids to visit Mickey or ride the rides if they don’t want to. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at Disney!

Like everything, Disney World is what you make it. The pixie dust needs a little help to be spread around, and with a little planning, you can keep it flying!